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July 1, 2012


A place for families again

Habitat for Humanity could return children to Delaware Street area

By Matthew Hamilton, Hearst-owned Albany Times Union

Published 09:25 p.m., Wednesday, June 27, 2012

ALBANY — Beauty is not a word residents of the South End have used lately to describe the six dilapidated rotting-wood and aluminum garages at 67 Delaware St.

Wednesday was a different story.

Residents said things like "beautiful," "a blessing," "what this neighborhood needs" as the blighted buildings came down in preparation for construction of Habitat for Humanity homes.

"It's progress," said Richard Moorman, whose house on Osbourne Street has a back yard that borders the site and the tangle of weeds in the adjacent vacant lots. "Hopefully we can have some neighbors that we can relate to instead of some empty garages."

Capital District Habitat for Humanity bought the buildings and several lots for $18,000 as part of a plan to construct six town houses, including two across the street at 56 and 58 Delaware St. whose foundations were poured a few weeks ago.

The town house project is in a section of buildings constructed in the second half of the 19th century. The neighborhood is populated by predominantly older residents.

The two buildings destined for the new foundations should to be competed by the end of the year. Construction of units on the site of the old garages should start early next year, said Michael Jacobson, Habitat's executive director. He attended a news conference with Mayor Jerry Jennings and other city officials who described the demolition as a precursor to improving the quality of life in the neighborhood. Meanwhile, project is nearing completion in the form of 12 new Habitat town houses one block over on Alexander Street.

Moorman, who has been in the neighborhood for more than 50 years, recalled playing Wiffle Ball with friends across from the garage site. On this sunny summer morning, he watched with joy as a bucket loader with a metal claw and belching black smoke picked up parts of each building by the roof and dragged them to the ground, creating plumes of dust and dirt.

"The neighborhood needed it," he said. "It should have been done years ago."

Kevin VanNess, who moved to the area from West Hill about a decade ago, said the work is a blessing. "I've been waiting so long," he said. "I was so happy when I heard them out here this morning. I said 'Thank God.'"

Willie Tune, standing at his front stoop at 53 Delaware St., also watched the wrecking crew, which included some relatives, with a sense of optimism. Pointing to the Children at Play sign on the sidewalk, he said the kids left a long time ago, but he hopes that will change.

"I'd love to see kids on this street," Tune said. "I'll have somebody to sit out and talk to."

Matthew Hamilton is a Times Union intern. • 518-454-5035